Foundations Moving On: Ending Programmes and Funding Relationships

Whether you are part of a family foundation that runs its own programmes, a big corporate grantmaker, a small venture philanthropist, an NGO that re-grants resources from a back-donor, or a mix of any of the above, exits are inevitable. Funders move on, and relationships with grantees, partners, or investees change along the way. Exit decisions and strategies are complicated; while a diversity of experiences has not (yet) produced blueprints for smart exits, we’ve pulled our favourite practices.


  • Nine helpful techniques
  • ​Practice example: Timelines and core funding
  • Practice example: How operational foundations end programmes
  • Handing over a brand
  • Finding opportunity in crisis
  • Learning from spend-out foundations
  • Four thought-provoking cartoons
  • An annotated bibliography on Exits, Transitions, and Moving On

What's in the Guide?

  • Natural life cycles
  • Entering to exit
  • Deciding to leave
  • Being supportive
  • Managing transformation
  • Communication: An essential ingredient
  • After the exit
  • Nine helpful practices - a summary of the ingredients for a good exit

​This guide was a product of GrantCraft's partnership with the European Foundation Centre in Brussels. 

There are no blueprints for exits, but you can be prepared and proactively strategize at all levels in your foundation. These are some suggestions for a variety of different grant-making audiences concerned with exits.

Trustees, boards, and foundation managers: Using the summary and the cartoons, you can conduct a discussion among yourselves asking: How clear are we about our legacy? Are we good enough at planning and managing exits? Can we learn from revisiting programmes we closed or countries we exited?

Programme and portfolio managers: Did your managers give you guidance on legacy, sustainability, and exits? Are the nine helpful practices reflected? Where do you need more guidance? 
Before you enter a field, start a program or give a grant, is it clear how achievements will last? What is the underlying business model? When preparing a concrete exit, read this guide to see if your plans cover key elements.

Foundation partners, not-for-profits and grantees: Discussing exits is helpful for everyone. This guide could be used to facilitate an open conversation with your funder(s). 

Consultants and interim managers: How can you best support foundations with exits? The guide can help set an agenda, and you can use the quotes and cartoons to trigger reflection and dialogue.

Researchers: What aspects of funder exits could benefit from further systematic research?